What Are Bed Bugs
You can’t read the paper or turn on the evening news and not hear another sensationalized story about bed bugs. Cimex lectularius (bed bugs) are nocturnal parasitic insects that feed solely on the blood or warm-blooded animals. Mostly eradicated in the U.S. After World War II, bed bugs have rebounded within the last decade due to increased international travel, an increase pesticide resistance and a general lack of awareness.
As a result, bed bug infestations have now been reported in all 50 states and have increased an estimated 500% over the past three years, putting them on par with cockroaches and rats as being a pre-eminent pest of the hospitality industry. But unlike roaches and rats, bed bugs do not feed on trash and debris and can thrive in even the cleanest five-star hotels.
The name bed bugs comes form their preferred habitat of the mattresses and box springs where they can remain undetected in the dark seams, cracks and crevices until ready to feed. Attracted by warmth and the presence of carbon dioxide, bed bugs generally feed once per week at night on the exposed skin of their host while he or she is sleeping. After feeding, they return to their secluded hiding places for up to 10 days while they digest their meal, mate and lay eggs.
Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
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Signs Of Bed Bugs (What To Look For)
Starting as an egg, it takes a bed bug between 6-8 weeks to become an adult going through various stages and appearances during the course of their life cycle. A female bed bug lays 1-12 eggs per day and can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. The eggs are sticky and white and measure less than a 1/25 of an inch. The eggs hatch between 6 and 17 days after they are laid, and the emerging nymphs have translucent/whitish, flat, oval bodies that are as small as the size of a period in a newspaper. The nymphs begin feeding immediately, molt (shed their skin casing) and grow to their next stage of development where the process begins again. After five molts, the bed bug reaches maturity and begins to reproduce. Adult bed bugs are approximately ¼ of an inch long (the size of an apple seed) with a reddish-brown, flat, oval body.
Signs of a bed bug infestation can often be found in the tuffs, folds and seams of the mattresses and box springs and may include:
- The bed bugs, themselves, or their eggs. Small reddish, brown or black spots (digested blood).
- Black spots that appears similar to mold (fecal matter left by the bugs).
- Brown or yellowish molted cast skins (empty shells of bugs as they grow from one stage to the next).
In addition to visual evidence, bed bugs also have glands whose secretions may leave odors. Seriously infestations may have a sickly sweet odor sometimes described as smelling like “rotting raspberries” or “almonds”.
Why They Are Difficult To Detect And Treat
Found in highest concentration in, on and around sleeping areas & upholstered furniture, bed bugs are extremely difficult to detect and treat not only because they are small enough to easily go unnoticed without a magnifier, but also because they are notorious hiders that conceal themselves in hard to detect places of least disturbance such as buttons, seams, cracks, crevices and holes. Likewise, bed bugs usually only feed when the host is not likely to notice them, typically when the host is sleeping, and then, retreat back to their secluded hiding places. And, unlike other pests, bed bugs cannot easily be baited because they only feed on the blood of mammals. As a result, visual inspections require patience and persistence, and even then, low-level infestations are often missed- even by trained professionals.
Likewise, because bed bugs are such superb hiders and can survive up to year without a blood meal, treating an infestation, too, can be an extremely difficult and lengthy process. Estimates place the cost of a bed bug incident in a single room to be as much as $6,000 to $7,000, not including potential litigation or the cost of negative public perception. Mostly due to a built up immunity of the pesticides on the market, the treatment of various strains bed bugs usually requires multiple products being applied at least three times at two week intervals with rooms being taken out of service for up to five days during each treatment. To make matters worse, most experts will recommend the room directly above and below as well as on either side of a suspected infestation also be treated.
Newer treatment options, such as freezing or thermal heat, have been shown to be more effective and greatly reduce the time a room is out of service, but the downside to either remedy is that neither provides any residual effect to protect the room from future infestations or population rebounds. Meaning, that even after spending thousands of dollars to treat an infestation, bed bugs can quickly be re-introduced to a facility arriving on the clothing or suitcase of the next guest.
The High Costs Of Bed Bugs (Liability And Loss Reputation)
The costs of treatments are highly variable depending on the specifics of a given infestation, but are very expensive under any circumstances. The real costs, however, come in the form of liability and loss reputation.
According to federal and state laws, hotels have specific legal obligations to provide safe and habitable accommodations for their guests. Certain infestations, such as bed bugs, usually constitute an unacceptable condition hotels can be liable for. Bed bug infestations can be a traumatic experience for those bitten causing increased stress, anxiety and insomnia which often times inspire victims to seek damages well above simply replacing a suitcase or paying a doctor’s bill. Already, the liability associated with bed bug incidences has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars being awarded to plaintiffs and millions more requested in open civil suits by people claiming to have been bitten by bed bugs while staying at a hotel. Credible lawsuits are the only problem; bed bug claims are now one of the top frauds perpetrated against hotels.
It’s also important to note, that insurance may not cover all the costs of litigation. Punitive damages, which usually compose the lion’s share of the suit, are typically not insurable, and many insurers won’t pay any portion of the claim if the hotel demonstrated it was negligent in dealing with potential and existing infestations.
To avoid the cost and negative publicity of a lawsuit, many hotel owners will prefer to settle out of court. Although most settlements are kept under a confidentiality agreement, attorneys estimate the average settlement ranges between $8,000 to $15,000 per claim
Another serious cost to hotels comes in the form of public opinion. When a bed bug infestation does occur, victims can easily spread word of the infestation via blogs and user-submitted travel review sites. Many websites have been created that dedicate themselves to pinpointing the latest infestation and warning travelers to steer clear. TripAdvisor and BedBugRegistry.com, who average over 100,000 visits per day, regularly reveal information and even photos confirming and warning of the presence of bed bugs in numerous hotels. The negative publicity can have a long-term, devastating affects on occupancy rates and brand value. In fact a recent survey of business travelers found 80% of them worry about coming into contact with bed bugs at a hotel and will not stay at a hotel that has had a known infestation regardless of what practices they put in place to prevent it from occurring again.
What You Can Do
Although there is little that can be done to prevent a guest from bringing bed bugs into your hotel, there are several things industry attorneys recommend hotel do to mitigate litigation actions. Accordingly, a hotel must demonstrate it has taken every reasonable & practical measure to:
- Detect infestations as quickly as possible.
- Respond quickly and appropriately to infestations that have been identified.
- Have procedures for dealing with guests and their belongings.
- Have a comprehensive follow up program to prevent re-infestations.
Being informed and prepared does not mean you have a problem–it just means you are taking proactive steps to handle the problem should it occur in the future. Implementing the proper tools, resources and training is a small price to pay compared to the costs of treating your facility, defending a lawsuit or attempting to recapture brand prominence.
Encasing you mattress, box spring and pillow; repairing cracks in plaster; gluing loose wallpaper; and sealing cracks around baseboards, molding, heating and air conditioning units are all recommended steps a hotel should take to eliminate bed bug hiding spaces and colonization areas. In addition, hotels should actively train their staff on:
- How to detect bed bugs- how to inspect and what signs to look for.
- How to prevent spreading and transference once an infestation has been discovered.
- How to handle a complaint and manage questions about bed bugs.
Why CKI Mattress Encasements
Recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and leading bed bug authorities and entomologists, encasing your mattress and box spring is perhaps the most cost effective, proactive step a property manager can make to limit your exposure and reduce the risk of bed bug Infestations.
CKI’s Slumbershield™ 360° And Sleep Defender® line of mattress, box spring and pillow encasements create a inhospitable environment for bed bugs that not only starve and kill-off any existing infestations in the mattress and box spring, they have also been scientifically tested to prevent any future infestations from getting into the mattress or box spring. Featuring a cool, breathable, poly-satin material, our mattress and pillow encasements provide additional protection against liquids, stains, allergens, molds, & mildew, and are specifically designed to meet the rigorous demand of the hospitality industry.
Moreover, many encasements on the market are only designed for the consumer market and will not hold up to industrial washing/drying temperatures rendering their protective properties useless. CKI’s mattress and pillow encasements feature the industry’s best, high-temperature polyurethane barrier able to withstand washing and drying temperatures of up to 160°. Likewise, our Sleep Defender 2X box spring encasement provides a double layer of protection and durability that greatly reduces the risk of ripping or tearing during installation and use. The Slumbershield 360° and Sleep Defender mattress encasements also save on labor and laundry costs with a lightweight, compact design that features a unique partial (Sleep Defender EZ3) or full removable top for easy, hassle-free installation, removal and care.
All CKI encasement also serve as useful tools in aiding in the early detection of bed bugs. By encasing the mattress and box spring, the bug’s access to the numerous areas in the mattress and box spring where they chose to nest and lay egg is eliminated, and they are restricted to the smooth, white, even exterior of the encasement where signs of the bed bugs, such as fecal spotting and shedded skins are quickly and easily detected increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of any internal or professional inspection protocol.